Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha) continued on his strong spring streak and followed up his overall victory at the Volta a Catalunya with a win at the GP Miguel Indurain in Spain on Saturday.
Rodríguez out-kicked former Caisse d’Epargne teammate Alejandro Valverde for the victory, with Michel Kreder (Garmin-Transitions) confirming his promise by crossing the line third at 8 seconds back.
“I am very happy to win,” Rodríguez told reporters after the race. “I have never won before in Navarra and this victory today was possible thanks to the excellent work of my team.”
The six-climb, 180km race finishing with a short but steep uphill finish on the Cat. 3 Basílico de Puy was ideal for Rodríguez, who switched from Caisse d’Epargne to Katusha to get more opportunities to ride as a captain. So far, the move is paying off in spades.
Caisse d’Epargne did the lion’s share of work to reel in an early, five-man breakaway that dominated the first 100km of the hilly terrain of Spain’s Navarra region.
Katusha drove to the front in the closing 20km to control the race and set up Rodríguez for the final charge up the short climbing finish, something of a specialty for “Purito,” a two-time winner at Montelupone at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) tried to upset the Katusha juggernaut, but ran out of gas in the final kilometer.
Rodríguez timed it just right and distanced Valverde by 6 seconds.
Kreder — a 22-year-old in his first year with Garmin after two seasons with Rabobank’s development team who rode well at Catalunya to finish seventh overall — capped an excellent ride to snag the final spot on the podium.
It was a strong showing across the board for Garmin-Transitions, with Peter Stetina notching a 20th placing at 19 seconds back against a top-notch field of riders heading to the Vuelta al País Vasco and Christian Meier slotting into 23rd.
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Sp), Team Katusha 4:52:40
2. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse D`Epargne, at 0:06
3. Michel Kreder (Nl), Garmin-Transitions, at 0:08
4. Alesander Kolobnev (Rus), Team Katusha, at 0:10
5. Ruben Perez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:12
6. Beñat Intxasuti (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:14
7. Mauro Finetto (I), Liquigas-Doimo, at 0:14
8. Maxime Bouet (F), Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 0:14
9. Juan Jose Oroz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:14
10. Valerio Agnoli (I), Liquigas-Doimo, at 0:18
11. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 0:19
12. Arkaitz Duran (Sp), Footon-Servetto, at 0:19
13. Ivan Velasco (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:19
14. Amets Txurruka (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:19
15. Kristijan Koren (Slo), Liquigas-Doimo, at 0:19
16. Rene Mandri (Est), Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 0:19
17. Alberto Benitez (Sp), Footon-Servetto, at 0:19
18. Egoi Martiniez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:19
19. Aitor Perez (Sp), Footon-Servetto, at 0:19
20. Peter Stetina (USA), Garmin-Transitions, at 0:19
21. Gustavo Cesar (Sp), Xacobeo Galicia, at 0:24
22. Jose Herrada (Sp), Caja Rural, at 0:25
23. Christian Meier (Can), Garmin-Transitions, at 0:25